Islam and the Search for African American Nationhood: Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam

Islam and the Search for African American Nationhood: Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam

Islam and the Search for African American Nationhood: Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam

Islam and the Search for African American Nationhood: Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam

Synopsis

A review of the history of African-American Islam from 1930 to 2005. Walker debunks fear-mongering about modern and emerging black Muslim sects. He suggests that American Islam is a bogey that white elites use to regiment Hispanics, Asians and immigants to bring them under tight nationalist control. Instead, he believes that African-American Muslims are simply expressing their unique political needs and preferences to the larger culture.

Excerpt

Introductory Remarks: Some Issues and Terms of this Study

This study tries to convey the sweep of the whole history of the growth of Islam and Arab influences into a sector in the personality of AfricanAmericans. Its time-frame is from around 1600, when America was still only a chain of British colonies, to mid-2005. Its coverage could not be even at all points: I necessarily focus on some specific periods, personalities and movements within that frame. For the pre-20th century period, I mainly present an interpretation of the roles and scope of Islam within the institution of slavery practised in the Southern states of the independent United States up to its Civil War of 1861–65. For the periods after 1900, I give most attention to images of Islam, Africa and Arabs in the writings of the first AfricanAmerican official historians, notably Carter Woodson and W.E.B. DuBois; to the Noble Drew 'Ali and the Moorish popular movement that he launched in 1913; to Elijah Muhammad as a religious thinker and leader of his Nation of Islam sect from 1930–1975; and to concepts of Islam, identity and the nature of the American system developed from 1975 over three decades in the successor-sects to the NOI headed by Warith ud-Din/Wallace Mohammed and Louis Farrakhan Muhammad. Space forced me to omit many Muslim thinkers and leaders of some quality both before and after 1975, such as Silis Muhammad, and also some figures closer than most figures we examine to the Sunni Islam of the Arab world. However, I have reviewed a fair bit of the interactions of the NOI and its successors with the black bourgeoisie and the secular protest movements among African-Americans. That interaction will heavily determine the final impact of Islam and the Arab world upon African-Americans.

The bulk of this book is about the (cultural) history of AfricanAmericans up to 1975: yet I locate those aspects and motifs in that bygone history that most centrally influence the development of African-American Islam in our post-modern era. All African-American history is treated as a continuum with little distinction between past and present in this work.

The cumulative growth of Islam-derived elements as one rallying-point for African-Americans in an unfriendly country, tests how much diversity the American system can recognize and harbor. How much of an open-invitation society could America ever become for all humans? The study of the Islamic aspect of African-American self-assertion bears in many ways on how much space a range of non-Anglo groups will be able to wrest in America and what the outcomes will be for them, also, as they strive to survive as cultural communities, including in the central U.S. system's politics.

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